By Dima Vorobiev, “I worked for Soviet propaganda”
If you are a Westerner and talk to us Russians about freedom, you need to know that we understand freedom quite differently from you.
In English, there are two complementary words for the topic: “freedom” and “liberty”.
We also have a pair, “svoboda” and “volya”. But the complementary meaning for the second one is quite different from “liberty”.
“Volya” also means “the will”. Yes, yes, like in the Nazi’s Triumph des Willens. In other words, it’s the ability to do what you want, to impress your will on whatever you have.
Vólya also forms the stem of another word, very pleasant to the Russian ear, privólye (an open space, an uncluttered expanse with no unwanted obstacles).
This perception of freedom is also worth keeping in mind when you come across all the passionate Russian postings about the yoke of political correctness and stifling liberal oppression that you Westerners must suffer every passing day.
For us, having to take into consideration other people, with their annoying habits, pesky demands and petty pretenses is also a form of non-freedom. It is often more oppressing because you can hide from police and taxmen when you really need to. But other people, they are always around! They haunt you everywhere!
As our national poet has said, “There is no happiness, but there’s peace and volya”.